It has been a rollercoaster journey to now for Founder and Managing Director of ClearStory James McCann, including joining the army, to getting involved in politics, to becoming part of the successful Web Summit event and most recently setting up his own business.

When he left school, he joined the defence forces having made the decision around the age of 12 to become a soldier and he did not explore other ideas. While the army was not the romantic vision he thought it would be, he learned a lot during his time in the defence forces and believes it has contributed to the success he enjoys today. After leaving the army, James began to work towards a career in public relations and politics.

He joined Web Summit in June 2015 as PR and media campaign manager, before using his skills gained from his two years experience with the largest Technology conference in Europe to help launch his new business ClearStory in July 2017. With his new project, he hopes to make things easier for Irish and International businesses to get their name out there by lowering the cost of professional public relations and digital marketing services.

James has already achieved a lot of success in his many different experiences over the first 14 years of his career and there will be plenty more to come as well. In this wide-ranging interview, he offers plenty of advice on the many different skills he gained whilst being in the army, what he learned from his time with Web Summit, setting up his new company to help promote the success stories of Irish businesses, and as always what advice would James offer to his 18-year-old self.

You can listen to James’ podcast at this link and it is also available to download on iTunes.

Let’s take a look at five key learns to take away from James podcast:

1. Keep an open mind. From the age of 12, James wanted nothing more than to join the army and did not consider going into anything else. Even when his career guidance teacher tried to get him into business, he just asked for the leaflet for the defence forces. However, the army was not what he expected to be and after over three years with them, he left to go to college to work towards a career in communications and public relations. Really put some thought and effort in what you want to do. Explore a few different choices and then decide what path you are most passionate about.

2. The importance of teamwork. James learned a lot in three and a half years with the defence forces. It taught him hard work and discipline, but one key important element was also to value the importance of teamwork. If one man was struggling, they would pick him up and move forward together as a team. In whatever it is you do that involves teamwork, it is in everyone’s best interest to help each other. Help your colleagues to get the best of them and bring them up to scratch. Unless you help each other, the team won’t progress.

3. How to start your own business. In July, James launched his new business ClearStory to help small businesses in Ireland and around the world get their name out there. The many businesses he has worked with already have fascinating stories and he wants to help them succeed. If you are thinking of launching a startup company, one key factor is to know your customer base and figure out what they want. Look at it from their perspective. Once you figure it out, you are ready to go. Don’t hold back because you think you might fail. Take a risk. Web Summit started off with only 400 people six years ago and is now the biggest technology event in Europe with over 50,000 attendees. Anything is possible.

4. Make a difference at what you do. Despite having no background in the area of politics, James made a huge impact in his local community. One such example was when he launched a campaign to stop the government cutting €1.5m from the elderly and within 24 hours, it has gathered steam and the cut was subsequently reversed. He made a huge influence despite having no experience and it just shows you don’t need all the tools to get something done. If you have a great idea, go put it into action and make an impact.

5. Prepare for the unexpected.  One of things being in the army taught James was that you always have to be prepared for the unexpected.  Whatever it is you set out to do – setting up a business or trying to attract people to an event – most of the time, there is no instruction manual on how to do any of that. It is all about trial and error. Don’t sit on excellent ideas because you worried that things won’t work out. If you wait around for the situation to be perfect, you will be waiting forever because it will never be perfect. Life will always bring up challenges, but you can’t let them take you down. Take action and when those obstacles come your way, you just have to jump over them when you come to them and keep on going.

Do you agree with my take aways from James McCann’s podcast? What inspired you most from the interview? Let me know my leaving a comment below.

Finally, I am hosting a Live Podcast to celebrate What I Know Now’s 1 year anniversary on Thursday 28 September at the Hamilton Buliding in Trinity College Dublin. If is free to attend, so you can sign up to come along at this link. Hope to see you there.

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